June 24, 2020, Wednesday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture: Matthew 7:15-20
‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
““You will know them by their fruits.”
Jesus is counseling the disciples to avoid being naïve. He wants followers who are simple, childlike in their simplicity —-uncomplicated, unsophisticated, —- but wise, aware, and astute. We should know our faith well enough to realize when we are being fed an untruth and familiar enough with Christ’s life to recognize a charlatan.
Some people use religion for various types of gain: money, pleasure, honor, political advantage. Occasionally someone will use religion as a front for evil purposes: to steal, to harass, to exploit.
Jesus uses the example of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, possibly a popular metaphor of his day, to help us picture the danger. I immediately think of the stuffed animal — a wolf with a removable sheepskin — that I remember seeing on TV many years ago. Real-life versions aren’t as easily identified. Whom exactly is Jesus cautioning against? Perhaps certain people are infiltrating his group of followers with bad intentions. Perhaps he is pointing out the deceptions all too common in every society.
Jesus continues his advice by turning our attentions from the malicious to the misleading. How often have we opened a beautiful piece of fruit to find it rotten inside? A good tree would not have borne this fruit. However, the tree must have looked healthy, or the harvesters would have passed it by. Jesus is telling us to avoid being misleading (i.e. hypocritical). We are to mean what we say and do as we say, —- not appear pious while entertaining evil thoughts, and not be tough, crass, or arrogant while thinking of ourselves as holy souls.
It is not just a metaphor that dead wood will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “You will know them by their fruits.” Jesus repeats this twice, to open and close this teaching, in order to impress its importance —- the importance of being genuine and sincere.
How healthy am I?